Draft Policy Would Limit Reach of Endangered Species Act

Posted on January 4, 2012 by Linda Bullen

On December 8, 2011, the Obama administration released a draft policy interpreting a key phrase in the Endangered Species Act (the "Act") that determines when species qualify for protection under the Act.  The Act defines an endangered species as any species “in danger of extinction in all or a significant of portion of its range.” The phrase “significant portion of range” is important, because it means that species need not be at risk of extinction globally to receive protection. The policy proposed on December 8 sharply limits the reach of this phrase by both defining “significant” to mean only where the species currently exists, not its historic range and by defining significant to mean that loss of the species from that portion of range would threaten the survival of the species as a whole.

The proposed policy has resulted in an outcry of opposition from environmental groups.  For example, the Center for Biological Diversity argues that under the proposed policy, "a species could be absolutely gone or close to vanishing almost everywhere it’s always lived — but not qualify for protection because it can still be called secure on one tiny patch of land."  “The policy absolutely undermines the spirit of the Endangered Species Act and will be a recipe for extinction of our native wildlife if it’s finalized - a loophole that’s really a black hole. It will allow for massive species decline and habitat destruction.”



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